Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bibliobits: Tigers, Werewolves, & Dogs (Oh My!)

A tiger with jaw wide-open...
2011 is the year of the tiger trend in literature. 

There is Tea Obreht's Orange Prize-winning novel The Tiger's Wife, narrated by a doctor on a mission to inoculate children at an orphanage in the Balkans.  When she learns by phone that her grandfather has died and that she must pick up his things at a clinic in a remote village, she recalls his tales about an escaped tiger in the Balkans, and of the woman who, according to village gossip, was the tiger's wife.

Then there is Sarita Mandanna's Tiger Hills, a heart-rending Indian family saga in which one of the characters is named the tiger's husband. 

There are also two memoirs with "tiger" in the title, Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and Margaux Fragoso's Tiger, Tiger.

Now the tiger has appeared again, not in the title, but in the text of the Booker-longlisted novel, Carol Birch's Jamrach's Menagerie. The jacket copy tells us that Jaffy Brown, an eight-year-old street urchin in London's East End, "finds himself face-to-face with an escaped tiger, which swiftly takes him in his jaws.  The tiger's owner, the great Mr. Charles Jamrach--famed importer of the world's strangest creatures--boldly struggles to free the boy from death's gasp."

I plan to start JM soon.

WerewolvesI bought Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver because I love the cover.  So shallow!   But that's how it is sometimes.  Shiver is a paranormal romance, the first in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series. The melancholy, romantic, witty tone is similar to that of Stephenie Meyers's TwilightTwilight was the first of these popular Y.A. vampire romances, as far as I know.  It was a matter of time before werewolf romances caught up.

In Shiver, 17-year-old Grace lives in a town where a wolf recently killed a teenager.  As a child, she was attacked by wolves and saved by a yellow-eyed wolf.  The yellow-eyed wolf is actually Sam, a werewolf who works summers in a bookstore.  When the townspeople set out to kill the wolves, Grace tries to save them.

I've only just begun it, but so far so good.

Dogs.  Although I'm not really writing about  animal lit, I decided to add a note on dogs to the jottings on tigers and wolves.  Faithful Ruslan by Georgi Vladimov is the best dog novel of the 20th century and one of the best Russian novels. Ruslan is a bewildered prison dog set free after the demolition of a Siberian gulag’s camp.  Trained to guard and herd, he misses his terrible master, doesn't know what to do, where to find food, or where to live.  With the other dogs, he haunts the train station and awaits new prisoners.  Although some of the prison dogs gradually become tame and find masters, Ruslan cannot adapt.  This is a very sad book, I cried and cried, and it is my top animal book of all time.  There were repercussions for Vladimov for writing the political allegory. 


Buried In Print said...

Y'know...I'm at the point where I start to tear up at mere TALK of animal stories that are sad. When I was a young reader, I used to seek out sad stories, but now I feel that I have to insert them very carefully amongst other reads. Still, I've got my eye open for a copy of this one...sounds like a dog of a different colour.

Frisbee said...

Such a good dog story! I know what you mean about tearing up. The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams was another grueling one, about heroic lab animals.